Mexico's PRI Recruits With a Love Connection

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Having failed to capture the votes of Mexico's younger generation, the former ruling party is making a new bid--for their hearts.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party, known universally as the PRI, has created a new link on its Internet page called "Find Love in the PRI." It's a matchmaking site that is also designed to be a forum for exchanging ideas.

Activated a few months ago, the link is one of the methods the PRI is using to try to attract a younger generation of Mexicans who traditionally have shunned the party as stale and outdated.

"The PRI is betting on the youth, because we are the ones who will be in charge of Mexico's future," said Alma Isela Lopez, a 24-year-old who is one of three young women who created the site.

The party is feeling a bit unloved itself since its stunning loss in last year's presidential election.

With the traditional pillars of power, money and connections the party erected during 71 years of uninterrupted rule suddenly gone, the PRI is seeking to develop a new identity--and to attract some new blood and energy.

The Web site "is a way to say, 'Here we are. We want to know what you think,' " said a PRI spokeswoman, Adriana Delgado.

Delgado said some party officials initially resisted the idea, but the site's creators convinced them it was a sincere attempt to reach out to Mexico's youth.

"We believe that you have to appeal to the young people in a different way because they communicate in a different way," Delgado said.

Of course, the party won't object if visitors to its home page browse the links to PRI organizations and read criticisms of President Vicente Fox's administration.

In addition to being a novelty for the PRI, the Web site offers young people an alternative to traditional chat rooms and dating services "where the only thing they ask for is your eye color," Lopez said.

"For us, it doesn't matter if you're tall, pretty, or ugly. What matters is that you love Mexico, want to contribute to it," she said.

Instead of being asked for physical descriptions, users of the "Find Love in the PRI" site are asked to check boxes that match their ideology and values--honesty, respect and equal opportunities are among those listed.

Jorge Lozano Soriano, a 28-year-old accountant in Mexico City, said he was drawn to the site because it seemed more serious and discreet than other Web dating pages.

"But I don't know how much of an impact it will have in obtaining more sympathizers to the party," he said. "Most young people don't have a very good image of the party. A majority don't believe in them."

Still, with the help of "Find Love in the PRI," Lozano discovered Eunice Vega, a 28-year-old executive assistant--who happens to be an active and enthusiastic PRI member.

Lozano, who claims no political affiliation, said as a result of his encounter with Vega, he has decided to "get to know" the PRI a bit better.

Lopez, the site's creator, said that 2,000 users had registered as of early July, but that it was too soon to tell whether it was attracting any young people to join the PRI.

Some experts are dubious.

As a recruiting method, the Web site "seems a bit inconsequential to me," said Benito Nacif, a political analyst at the Center for Economic Development Research in Mexico City.

He said what turns many young people off about the PRI is the party's seeming resistance to change, including when it comes to overlooking younger candidates in favor of older candidates who have been in the party for years.

"If they want to attract young people, they would do better to put some new faces in the party, present a party that is for change," Nacif said.

Maribel Perez, a 19-year-old English student, thinks it's a good idea the PRI is trying new ways to attract young people, "as long as they really take our ideas into account and actually act on them."

But Patricia Arenas, a 27-year-old lawyer, considers the site silly.

"I think it's fine that young people participate in politics and that the party is trying to attract them, but I think there are better ways to do it," she said. "A site should deal with politics or love, but to try to find a mate through a political party seems foolish."

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PRI: www.pri.org.mx

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